Ohio Looks to Move Forward on Sports Betting Legislation

Ohio Looks to Move Forward on Sports Betting Legislation
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Ohio is moving closer to making sports betting a reality.

SB 111, which was introduced first by the Ohio Senate, and HB 194 (introduced slightly later by the state House) are two pieces of legislative bills currently being reviewed.

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“There have been many discussions between sponsors of the House and Senate bills over the course of the summer, said Sen. John Eklund-R, sponsor of the Senate bill. “There are a number of differences between the two and we have a handful, maybe two handfuls, of issues that we have not come to any final decision on.

“We have prepared a draft document and distributed to all interested parties for comment and consideration. We are beginning to receive their feedback on the two bills and hope to consolidate moving forward so we have one complete document.”

Will the issues be a stumbling block moving forward?

“They are major to me in the sense that they are fundamental to the bill, but I don’t view them as major issues that reasonable minds can’t come together and work out a solution,” Eklund added.

The main document both parties are working off of this summer has been HB 194, which was approved by the House in late May. The state Senate will be in session virtually on Oct. 14, with two optional October dates later in the month. The House returns to session on Nov. 10. Both bodies have met throughout the summer via Zoom.

“We wanted to have a short turnaround time for comments and reviews for both bodies. There is no true deadline, but we are eager to get going on this,” Eklund said. “We are going to proceed with a document that all sponsors can stand behind and we will see that the temperature of the Senate is as we go through the regular committee process. “If we are persistent about it and everything goes accordingly, we could do that by the end of the month (October).”

Eklund has previously said he would like to get something done by the Nov. 3 Election Day.

Gov. Mike DeWine has been engaged with both bodies with some of the details of the bills and has been kept up-to-date on any discussions that have taken place.

Which Agency will Oversee Sports Betting?

Legislation has floated in the Ohio General Assembly since the fall of 2018, after the Supreme Court overturned the ban on sports betting. But it has been a long road in Ohio to even get bills out of committees.

The House bill has called for the Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC) to be the chief regulator, while the Senate bill puts control with the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC).

“We have great respect for the process and we are doing the things that we are supposed to be doing in addressing any concerns and making the bill a strong one that everyone can be on board with,” Eklund said. “If it’s the right thing to do for Ohio, let’s do it.”

College sports on the Division I level within the state will be allowed for sports wagers, but college club sports will not.

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Some have also wanted Internet lottery to be a part of the bill.

“It is certainly worthy of conversation and I don’t think it would necessarily impede the progress of the sports wagering bill that we are currently working on,” Eklund said. “It could be a part of the bill or we can address later on as an add on.”

How Many Skins Will Be Available?

Three skins are available for each casino, according to the legislation. However, Eklund said right now that is a placeholder number, but that three is a good number to start with.

Before 2009, casinos were prohibited within the state, so bettors had to take their action to casinos in Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. In November 2009, Ohio voters approved a measure that would allow for four casinos to be established in the state, one each in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, and Toledo.

There are also seven Ohio racinos (located at racetracks) throughout the state.

Getting sports betting legislation approved is more important than ever for Ohio with Michigan likely to have online sports betting and iGaming operational by the end of the year. Neighboring Pennsylvania, Indiana and West Virginia already have strong sports betting markets.

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